Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Romans 1:1. The Freedom of Slavery

The Freedom of Slavery

Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God.  Romans 1:1 (NKJV) 

An Explosive Word

"Slavery" is an explosive word.  This practice nearly destroyed our nation 150 years ago.  We still live with the shame of that era.  The word "slave" carries so much baggage that translators of the New Testament have almost uniformly refused to use it in our English editions.  Instead, they use "servant" or "bondservant."

In a world full of egotists, Paul's first description of himself is radical.  He calls himself a doulos -- a slave. Though he has ample reason to boast of his many accomplishments, he describes himself first in humble, almost humiliating terms.

There are two main words in the New Testament usually translated "servant."  They are diakonos (from which we get the word "deacon") and doulos.  Diakonos means to render service to someone -- literally "to run errands" -- something like a table waiter.  Doulos goes further and carries the meaning of subservience and ownership.  R.C. Trench in his word studies says of doulos, "the will of the servant becomes swallowed up in the will of the master."  

Give Me Some Respect

Doulos challenges us!  Our culture is fueled by hype and hubris.  Self-image, self-respect, and self-worth are center stage.  Self, self, self!  In the words of Andre Agassi, "Image is everything."  We fight for our rights and refuse to be used.  "Nobody is going to tell me what to do!"  "I deserve a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T."

Yet, the greatest apostle of all time calls himself a doulos -- a slave, a bondservant.  Jesus set the pattern.  In Matthew 20:27-28, He says, "27 And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave (doulos) 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

True Freedom

When we understand the true meaning of doulos -- servanthood -- it is an incredibly liberating truth!  When we bow as slaves to Jesus, He elevates us in ways unknown to the world. When we stop fighting, He fights for us. When we surrender, He defends. When we yield our rights, He upholds our worth.

"Slavery" is transformed from a despised term of humiliation to a cherished description of dignity -- of one owned by the Lord, directed by the Spirit, and controlled by God's Word.  My rights are no longer my own, but God upholds me.  Such is true freedom.

How is servanthood opposite to the way the world operates?
Why are many people afraid to become a doulos?
How can you be a servant to someone today?

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